Despite the absence of a spectacular attack by Islamic State (IS) in Southeast Asia in 2017, the
jihadist movement poses a sustained threat in the region, says the Terrorism & Political Violence Map 2018 produced by Aon with The Risk Advisory Group.
The threat is most severe in the Philippines, where various IS-linked factions seized control of the southern city of Marawi in May 2017, but it also extends in lesser degrees to neighboring Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.IS propaganda has devoted significant attention to Southeast Asia, particularly since 2016, but the capability of IS militants to mount major attacks appears limited in most parts of the region.
Jihadist groups have long been active in Indonesia and the Philippines in particular, but the declaration of an IS ‘caliphate’ in Syria and Iraq led to the rebranding of existing extremist groups and the formation of new networks. It also provided a radicalising voice and IS figures in Iraq and Syria gave instruction and direction to local supporters through online propaganda and communication, says the report.
Regional governments have repeatedly expressed concern about the potential for the southern Philippines to become a haven for returnee fighters and other extremists.
The threats of terrorist attacks is still generally high across the region, particularly attacks mounted by lone actors using crude and improvised weapons. So far, regional security forces have been largely effective in monitoring and disrupting networks that are planning attacks. The authorities disrupted a total of 11 plots in Malaysia and Indonesia in 2017, and none have been reported publicly in Singapore after at least two foiled plots in the city state the previous year.